The former Arizona State linebacker was seen as little more than a gamble, but one that paid, as Burfict is among the Bengals' final 53-man squad, the team announced.
Burfict entered the NFL with baggage, but he impressed Lewis in offseason practices and throughout training camp.
The rookie spent most of the preseason at middle linebacker. Burfict's inclusion on the roster signaled bad news for fellow linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy, the Bengals' former fourth-round draft pick, who was released Friday.
Asked why Burfict made the cut over Muckelroy, Lewis told The Cincinnati Enquirer, "He's been the guy who has played the best. He's done the things he needed to do on special teams and defense."
The Bengals aren't in a hurry to rush Burfict into a starting role. He has shown that he can supply pressure on the quarterbacks, and that can be used in game situations. The team has been patient with him all along, and it's paid off.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.